A few winters ago, the younger kid asked us for an odd gift. She wanted to participate in Girls on the Run, a self-esteem program for elementary girls. The kid’s school participates, and they had opened registration.
We hemmed and hawed. She had soccer. She had golf (sort of). She had her seizures under control only sporadically. She needed rest. GOTR came at a not-small (for us) pricetag. We had one car on the fritz and a mountain of bills.
We told her GOTR would be her big Christmas present. She thanked us.
Her confidence, flattened somewhat by the nagging epilepsy and a then-undiagnosed sensory learning disability, shot through the ceiling after that first season. She came home after each session bubbling with ideas and advice. No gossiping. Stand up for yourself and your friends. Respect your teachers. Respect yourself. Do your homework. She asked for it again in the spring, and we agreed.
I decided at the last minute to run the spring race with her, as her running buddy. This wasn’t her plan, however. We got to the race and she and her buddy ditched me.
Incensed, I started to simply get a bottle of water and settle in at the finish line to fume and sweat in the humidity and wait for her. I didn’t feel like running or walking, hadn’t truly trained for it, was irritated that she had left me. Who would know, besides me, if I didn’t do it?
Who would care? And who would I disappoint, if I didn’t do it?
The night before, I’d listened to Molly Barker, the power woman extraordinaire who founded GOTR. She’d talked about being afraid to share the GOTR ideals with anybody, but when she did, the movement grew exponentially. She’s still – STILL – amazed that she started this wonderful program.
I realized we all have moments that grab us by the throats, when we realize that our words and wants and passions have somehow made a difference in somebody’s life, when we realize that our power within is magnified only when we decide to share it with the world. It ripples likes rocks tossed into water. The women in that room all had been touched by the ripples on the water, and their confidence and passions touched me. They all encouraged me to think about starting a Girls on Track chapter at Mack’s school.
The GOTR ideas for life are the same as for a 5K. Do your personal best. It’s not a competition. Be honest. Show respect. Expect good. Keep your word. Run as fast and as far as you can. When you get tired, slow down, but don’t stop. Set your own pace. Keep going.
So I wiggled through the crowd and took a place in the mob. Started off at a steady walk, upped it to a slow jog. I started the 2-minute run, 1-minute rhythm walk method, which had worked for half-marathon training, after which I tried the 45-second, 3-minute rhythm, which made me feel less likely to pass out from poor lung capacity. I downed too much tepid water, got queasy, and walked for longer than I’d planned. But I kept going, running, walking, running, walking.
When we neared the finish line, I heard the thump of “Brick House.” The perpetual party song and on my top 10 for best songs ever. Damn, I felt good. I still cannot believe how fabulous it felt. One of the GOTR staffers hugged me and said she was proud.
So was I.